Every day on average 96 people are killed by guns in the US. Today someone was killed with a gun here in Sacramento, but it most likely never made the national news. I only know because I randomly read one of my Nextdoor emails just now. Gun violence has become so normal in the US that we rarely hear about the murders, suicides, and accidental deaths that happen every single day. It’s become so commonplace that our children have to go through active shooter lockdown drills from preschool onwards. But it’s still easier for a minor to purchase an assault rifle than it is for them to buy a beer in many states! Gun violence has become our norm, but people incomprehensibly still lobby against changing laws that would bring the numbers of deaths and violence down.
Not a stranger to the ravages of gun violence, Pati Navalta Poblete suffers it firsthand when her son Robby is murdered in their hometown of Vallejo in 2014. A Better Place is Pati’s personal memoir of dealing with such a sudden and traumatic loss, losing a child who had everything to look forward to in life in such a terrible moment of violence. Pati writes so beautifully and eloquently (I’m not surprised that she has been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize for her journalism), but also with brutal honesty. She doesn’t hold back on how her son’s death transformed her, and how she manages to claw her way back to life herself, step by step. Both heartbreaking and full of hope, A Better Place is the story of terrible sadness, but also redemption, forgiveness, and peace.
I’ve lost enough loved ones in sudden and tragic ways, and related to a lot of Pati’s journey in A Better Place. I must admit that I cried through a lot of this book, and had to put it aside a few times and take a breather, not because it was too much, but because I needed to think about Pati’s words and find my own meaning for them in my own experiences. By reading Pati’s personal journey through grief I also gained some clarity in mine. I specifically found her plan to undertake certain activities that her son would have done, even when they took her out of her personal comfort zone, to be so brave and so comforting at the same time – and I think this is something that I think I might do myself at some point.
I loved how Pati weaves little stories about Robby into the narrative, which helps us as readers see the person he was. I also love how she finally took her grief and pain and used it towards something that will make a change in the community. The Robby Poblete Foundation is a brilliant concept and I can’t wait to hear about the artwork that will be created from all of the guns that are collected during buybacks.
Thank you Pati Navalta Poblete and Nothing But The Truth Publishing for this heartbreaking, beautifully written, and necessary piece of work. A Better Place comes out on May 15th, and in my opinion is a must read.
“Life is not fair or unfair. It is not kind or unkind. It just is.”